Unexpected Guests

“Road. Power. Water.”  We hadn’t even got to our rental place on the coast and Captain was already talking about our To Do List.  Thinking about our to do’s was a bit overwhelming so I put our plans out to the Universe and left it at that.   All I was thinking about was getting settled into our new home.

We’d been in such a hurry to get out of Quito, both of us forgot to contact our landlord or the lady with the keys to let them know we’d be there just before dark.  “How are we going to find this lady?”  Captain was more concerned than I was.  It’s a small town.  Everyone knows everyone.  Anyone could surely tell us where she lives, what she is doing and when she will be back!

Captain and I were thrilled when we found the House on the Hill.   The house overlooks town with a nice view of the ocean.  Best of all, we were only minutes away from the construction of our paradise.  We hadn’t considered anything but its proximity to our property…

House on the Hill

Our village is a small fishing town of about 850 people.  And that number accounts for many of the farmers in the surrounding area.  The men tend to their fishing lines, waiting on the tide while the women carry their dishes and laundry to the river for washing.  There is not much going on for the locals throughout the week.  The weekends get busy with local tourists, some in cars, others on buses packed with beach goers.  People watching is a common hobby of the townspeople, as is gossiping.  Until now, I hadn’t thought about us having to drive down Mainstreet, the only street, to get to the House on the Hill.  Every time we came and went, everyone in town would know.

And of course our first entrance into town was grand.

First of all, only a few people in town have vehicles.  Only a few more have motorcycles.  The Incredible Hulk with his loud pipes, drew a bit of attention to us…”Hello Everyone!”  The pipes could be heard from a half mile away.

Secondly, the Chevy’s truck bed was weighed down with all our belongings.  Giant fishing ropes have been laid down for speed bumps throughout town so slowing down gave everyone an opportunity to see all the stuff we had in the back.  “We are the new gringos in town!!”  I suppose it is just curiosity but from the youngest child to the oldest man, they all are compelled to peep in the windows as we pass by.

Lastly, not only did we have two dogs, but they were riding in the cab with us!  In these parts, dogs are just wild creatures that eat scraps out of the street and are not welcomed inside.  Obviously we didn’t come from these parts…

Finding the housekeeper was quite simple as I suspected.  The first person we asked took us to the woman’s home.  In my best Spanish I asked for the woman and out walked a young latino man.  “She isn’t here right now.  Can I help you?”  English?  In this tiny town, I had not been expecting that!

Brooklyn was one of two American students in town. He just happened to be staying with the housekeeper.  A New York school has been sending fellows to this town for a few years now for community building.  That would explain his perfect english!

The housekeeper wouldn’t be back for a few hours so instead we were taken to the security guard/gardener’s home who also had keys.  When we explained we would be probably be staying for 6 months, the gardener seemed so surprised.  In fact, I don’t think he was even expecting us!

We found this place on our last two month visit to Ecuador.  Our standards of cleanliness must have been lower because seeing the house again, I realized the place was filthy.  There was a layer of dirt all over everything and then critter droppings over that.  The gardener asked if we would like weekly cleaning services of the housekeeper.  Being a private person, having someone in my house, whether I am home or not, has always been a bit disturbing.  Supposedly she was already, cleaning the house so I suspected her idea of clean and my idea of clean were very different.  Politely I declined.

As excited as I was to unpack, everything would be waiting until the next day.  It had been a long day in the car and I would be scrubbing the place top to bottom before unpacking anything.  Darkness set in as Captain and I unloaded all our bags inside the front door.  It was time to make our beds.

In examining the house closer, I decided there was one thing I would not be waiting to unpack.  The screens were made of wood that had warped over the years.  Wherever there was a window, there were half-inch openings welcoming all types of creatures.  Not to mention the recently installed electric lines that entered the house through large open holes in the home.  The mosquito net was buried deep but crucial to our overnight comfort.

When I was digging in our bags for the netting, I heard a “Hello!?!” and a knock on the door.  A guest already?  I opened the door and in walked the student from earlier and an American woman.  “She heard what you two were doing and wanted to meet.”  This woman was visiting her daughter, Charity, the second American student.  She exclaimed, “I just had to say hello!  What an adventure you two are on!”  I was not ready to host company as it had been a long day of traveling but welcomed them in for a short chat.  Behind them, in walked the gardener.  He made himself comfortable on the couch  and sat there wearing his great big smile.  He sat listening to our conversation as if he understood every word of it…

I shared a bit about our story and my aspirations for the community.  The town has great potential but some guidance is needed.  After hearing about my hopes and dreams, she looked down at all our bags and said, “are these bags all filled with stuff for the townspeople?”  I was a bit taken back.  Was I supposed to come bearing gifts?

There was a bonfire on the beach but Captain and I declined the invitation as we were in no mood for socializing.  When the three left, Captain and I sat down on the couch to take in the music of the ocean waves.  It hadn’t been five minutes when I heard the giggles of children.  Right outside the window, four tiny heads were peeping at us through the screen.  When we caught them in the act, they took off running and screaming.

Forgiving the children for their innocent curiosity, I tuned into the ocean waves and went deep into relaxation.  To think, Captain and I are living on the Pacific Ocean.  What a dream come true…

As I came back to my body and gently opened my eyes, there stood another figure in the window.  “Ahh!”  It was the gardener.  Standing just over four feet tall, all I saw was his head wearing that big silly grin.  How long had he been standing there?

Behind him was standing the housekeeper.  She asked again if we wished for her to cook and clean.  Again, I explained Captain and I took care of those chores ourselves.  Next, she asked to use the phone upstairs.  “Okay, I guess…”  Our house was one of three homes in town that had a landline.  My boundaries were being tested.

I knew driving through town every time we left meant everyone knowing when we were coming and going.  But what about privacy in my house?  We had only been there for a few hours and my private time had already been interrupted more than I cared to count…

Our first night was very restless.  Both Captain and I were distrustful of the noises in the dark so we both slept with one eye open.  I had the uneasy feeling that anyone could  be watching us in the night.  It seemed the moment I fell deep into my slumber, someone was just getting their night started.  In town below, a salsa techno mix was playing on max volume.  The music was so loud outside our window and it lasted throughout the night.  How did the next door neighbors stand for this?  Thankfully a long travel day helped me sleep like a baby…

It was just passed six when Captain and I took the dogs to the beach for their morning walk.  We happened passed the house that was still playing the obnoxiously loud music.  Sitting there in the street, all by herself was a baby who apparently didn’t sleep as well as me…

Be careful Baby!

On the way back from our walk, we witnessed two other unattended children on the beach.  This time they were at our gate asking if they could come home with us.  I had a whole list of reasons why these children should have been under parental guidance but my biggest concern was them asking complete strangers to take them home!

Anyways, I was not ready for anymore guests…I had already identified twenty different insects who  made themselves at home in the House on the Hill.  With all its crooks and crevices, the place was open to all those who wished to enter.  And the insects here in Ecuador are much bigger than what I imagined!

The biggest cockroach ever!

I had just sat down on the porch steps to brush Miles and Grace after our walk on the beach, when something caught my eye.  At first glance I thought, “wow! That is a really big bug!”  When I realized what it was, I knew it was actually very small.  Slowly creeping inches away from my leg was a baby tarantula.

Tiny Tarantula

Nature is the essence of our Paradise on the Pacific.  When Captain insisted we would be screening in every inch of our inn, I was concerned.  Won’t this create a barrier between our guests and nature?  After living here for 24 hours, I answered my own question…

The rest of the day was spent washing dishes, cleaning cupboards and mopping floors.  I discovered the droppings were lizard and not rat which seemed to ease my disgust.  After all the bugs living with us inside, I actually welcomed the lizards for dinner!

It didn’t matter how much I scrubbed, this house was never going to be clean. The ceilings were covered with a sheet of black plastic and then strips of bamboo over top.  Wherever I cleaned, black dust would fall right back into place from the ceiling above.  What was this mysterious dusting?  What else was living with us?  Ugh!  Captain and I expected to be here for 6 months…I couldn’t think about the filth anymore so I went outside for a yoga break.

Taking a deep breath in…and letting it out… sounds of the sea…songs of the birds…finding my still point was simple.  My mind went silent and I saw myself on a beautiful platform, overlooking the great ocean.  I was leading a yoga experience for a group of women who were here on a retreat.  We were all buzzing with inspiration…

Taking another deep breath in, I stretched up and let it out as I stretched down.  My eyes opened gently as I came up again.  “Ahhh!”  There stood the gardener wearing that damned grin.  What was he doing?  His unexpected drop-ins were starting to creep me out…

I was experiencing much unease with this move to Ecuador.  Much more than I had expected.  This rental house was all I had to be my safe space.  Mr. Deeds popping up around every corner…peeping kids in the windows…strangers with keys to my home…oversized insects moving about in the nighttime…this was not settling whatsoever.    Over the past year, I have learned more about setting personal boundaries with others to communicate clearly how I expect to be treated.  Having personal space is also so very important to me.  But I was quickly realizing the cultural differences with our little Ecuadorian community.  Small town.  Big families. Small living spaces.  I didn’t see any boundaries…

I began unpacking knowing that I would find comfort in my personal belongings.  It felt so good believing this would be the last move for a while.  With all the mix up in customs I expected some things to be missing so I was prepared for a loss.  Several of our boxes had been opened and closed with tape notifying us that our bags had been searched by customs.  Of course the box with the taser gun and pepper spray was searched but they were still in there!  And would you know I had my kombucha and seeds the whole time!  All that drama and nothing was missing.  We concluded that our bags were delayed in Miami and when they arrived late in Quito, the airline didn’t want to deliver them.  Issues in customs were just an excuse for us to pick up our bag versus the airline delivering them to us.  What a surprise!

Not a day was going by without an unexpected guest…

One morning I found the dogs barking at a giant iguana.  His body alone was almost 3 feet long.  With his rough skin, great size and front leg missing, I knew he was an aged iguana who had been through quite a bit.  He was whipping his tail about and not backing down from a fight.  “This is my territory!”

"I own this place!"

Another afternoon, Captain came running out of the bathroom with his shorts at his ankles.  “My ass!  Something touched my ass!”  I could only imagine what was coming up through the depths of the plumbing system.  “Please don’t be a snake. Please don’t be a snake,” I thought to myself.  Upon further investigation I was relieved.  Captain plopped down on the toilet startling a tree frog finding sanctuary in the pot.

It was different afternoon when the puppies alerted me to yet another guest.  I followed them down the stairs and there stood a beautiful mule.  With black bengal stripes on his feet and a smile on his face, I recognized him as a mule from town.  Our gate at the bottom of the hill was open and he was just stopping in to say hello.  For a moment I thought he’d come to be with me forever.

One day I was found a bat in the kitchen sink…

Mr. Bat

But our next guests were the most unexpected.

Early one morning, Captain answered the incoming call on the landline.   “Let me get my wife.”  Captain explained the man on the line who was the brother of our landlord.  It is tradition that his family comes every year and spends a week at the beach.  A week?!?  This was news to us.  We explained to the man that we had all of our belongings in the home as we were moving to Ecuador, not just vacationing.  He ensured us they were good people and there would be no trouble.  Captain suggested us leaving for a short get-away but the man insisted we stay.  “Please do not insult me.  We are good people.”

This must be what is meant by “mi casa es su casa”…

We were far from excited to share of living space with a whole family but the alternative of leaving for a week was even less appealing all things considering.  After talking it over we thought it would be a good opportunity to practice Spanish, socialize our dogs and learn a few Ecuadorian meals.  At least they gave us notice.

When the family arrived, we gave them plenty of space to get settled in.  We didn’t know there would be eight of them…

The first thing they said was, “this place is so clean!”  Funny.  I thought it was still pretty disgusting!  The family was very nice and we quickly became acquainted.  They brought along giant cardboard boxes filled with bagged candy for all the kids in the town.  They also had bags of clothes they would handing out to the townspeople.  Does everyone bring hand outs?

The family was on vacation so I had to keep things in perspective.  But the House on the Hill wasn’t my vacation spot; it was my home so my patience was wearing thin.  Had the family spent less time in the town, I would have gone crazy.  When I came home and no one was there except for a group of kids hanging out on our couch, I was perturbed.  I hadn’t ever seen these kids before and they were just chilling in my house.  The father of our live-in family returned awhile later and said, “these are my god-children!”  Thankfully, this incident was on their last day because I was started to get irritated…

When the family left, Captain and I agreed if this situation comes up again, we would be finding somewhere else to go for the time being.

On our first night reclaiming our house, I had just settled into the sounds of silence when I heard two people at the doorstep.  It was Charity and with her was a young local guy.  They had just ran up the hill and she was huffing and puffing; she was clearly disturbed.  “I didn’t know what do to but I know you are nurse and thought you could help.”

Charity explained this guy’s sister had been sick for quite some time.  But this night the girl could barely breathe.  I hoped to provide some relief with a few essential oils but it sounded like she needed further medical attention.  I grabbed my stethoscope and a few other nursing necessities.   Captain followed me out the door with a flash light.

I followed the two in while Captain kept his distance.  I was sure it was only pneumonia but Captain was worried she may be more contagious.  Ducking under a hammock in the doorway, I stepped into a house no bigger than 12×16.  Most of the space that I saw was the living room, kitchen and dining room all in one.  There were two small closed rooms that must have been the bedrooms.  In the larger room was the whole family consisting of Ma, Pa and six children ranging from toddler to young adult.  Who slept where and did any of them ever have privacy?  They were all hovering over the a thin, fragile girl sitting in the hammock.  She was doubled over her lap with unusually edematous legs and was wrapped in a puffy coat.  Her fever was intense and despite my request, she wouldn’t take off the coat.  Where did she get a winter coat anyways?

Congestion deep in her lungs was heard without my stethoscope.  Eucalyptus oil was used to open her airways which provided some relief.  Perhaps it was normal to the girl but the energy in the room was a bit stifling with everyone hovered over her.  I gave her a blend of oils to relax her in hopes that it would take effect on all the concerned family members.

When I asked Charity what more the family wanted of me, I was handed a glass vial, a syringe and a needle. “They need someone who can give her this shot.”  What is this?  “They don’t know but they said it helped with the pain.”  Where did they get it?  “At the local store.”  From the guy with the store that sells eggs and bread???  After asking more questions, I realized it was a medication available to the townspeople and it was used in many different situations; it was their cure-all.  I was sure she needed antibiotics and encouraged them to see the doctor ASAP.  They said they couldn’t that night but would in the morning.  For now all they wanted was for me to give this shot to the girl.

Where was my accountability in all of this?  A nurse never gives medication without protocols or doctors orders.  And she definitely does not give a medication if she doesn’t know what it is!

I was in a different world now…

The girl had this med earlier in the day which was effective and I was ensured she didn’t have any reactions.  How often could this medication be given?  Who knows but this is what the family asked of me.  I broke the glass vial and drew up the medication.  Back home, I would have never done this within out a special filter needle to prevent glass shards being injected.  My anxious mind took off as I imagined a man showing up at my door telling me the girl’s family was suing me for complications.  I went ahead giving her a shot trusting this was a good karmic deed and there was no reason to worry…

A few days later we visited our friends Caffeine and Mellow.  “What a surprise!  We were just wondering about the two of you!”  It had been a year so we had a lot of catching up to do.  Of course they wanted to hear all about our property.  When Captain said, “Road. Power. Water.” Caffeine replied, “I know just who you need to talk to.”  Next thing I knew, she had set dinner plans with her friends.

Caffeine is a gringo woman who has lived all around the world and experienced a lot in her day.  In hopes for guidance, I shared with her some of the challenges I was facing in my first couple weeks of Ecuador.  Where is the respect for personal boundaries?  Or perhaps there are no boundaries?  “Just wait until they start asking you for money!”  Knowing we were coming to a place where we would see so many in need, Captain and I became clear about our role in our new community.  I shared with her the boundaries Captain and I had set before moving to Ecuador.  “We are not adopting all the strays.  We are not adopting all the children.  And we are not handing out money.”  There were many other ways we could serve our community in a healthy manner…

The following morning as I opened the door to say hello to the world, Mr. Deeds was standing there waiting for me.  Ahhh!!! Why?!?  He was inviting us to his son’s baptism, or so I thought.  Later that evening there was a knock on the door.  It was the gardener’s son to clarify a few details.  Not only were we being invited to the baptism, we had been asked to become this child’s god parents!

This was a line I was not crossing.  First of all, I had never met the kid!  Second, what did becoming a god-parent in Ecuador entail?  In the States, this is a serious commitment if anything should ever happen.  Next, what about the next parents who ask?  Where do we draw the line?    Lastly, we had an important dinner date.  Thank goodness because it was the easiest excuse as to why we would not be committing to this interesting request…

I knew this new life was not an easy path but I am faced with challenges I hadn’t expected.  But I sense I’m here for reasons deeper than living out a wild idea that Captain and I had a few years ago.  So much like when someone shows up at my doorstep, I must maintain my grace.  Like with an unexpected guest, I am welcoming these challenges with genuine hospitality and lots of patience!